OCEANSIDE — Oceanside unanimously introduced an ordinance on Wednesday to ban sales of synthetic drugs commonly called fake weed, spice and bath salts, with Councilwoman Esther Sanchez absent for the vote.
The problem is plaguing the nation. The drugs are cheap to make, sold at convenience stores, gas stations and head shops, and usually purchased by youth in their teens and 20s, parolees and homeless people.
The labels read bath salts, plant food and iPod cleaner to skirt the law. “They are labeled not for consumption however people do consume these,” Police Chief Frank McCoy said.
The effects of the drugs include hallucinations, seizures, violence and death. Health experts at the meeting said there has been an increase in emergency room visits due to synthetic drugs.
McCoy said city police are already working to educate retailers on the drugs, which are marketed to youth in attractive candy colored packaging.
Teens from Oceanside High School and El Camino High School North Coastal Prevention Coalition spoke on the dangers and ease to obtain the drugs.
“I’ve seen the drugs sold at liquor stores and gas stations,” Yessica Solano, an Oceanside High School student, said. “I’ve witnessed the harmful effects it can have on a family member.”
Fake weed was first seized by U.S. Customs in 2008. To date over 150 derivatives of the drug have been manufactured and sold. Federal laws control 26 derivatives.
Rick Moore, special agent with the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration, said due to the speed at which manufacturers in China change the molecular structure of synthetic drugs, the agency finds itself chasing a moving target.
“At the federal level we do everything we can to emergency classify these chemicals,” Moore said. “We’re always months, years behind. Our lab is trying to figure out what the next chemical structure is going to be.”
This leaves the problem in local city governments’ hands.
Moore said his office phone is ringing off the hook with cities asking how to address the problem.
Oceanside is the first city in San Diego County to move forward with an ordinance to stop sales. Moore complimented the ordinance that bans 94 named chemicals and their derivatives.
The city law penalizes sales or possession with a $1,000 fine and, or up to six months imprisonment. Oceanside will adopt the ordinance at its next meeting.
California cities that have laws in place include Los Angeles, Redlands, Victorville, Rialto, Highland, Upland and Twentynine Palms.